FourFourTwo’s Best 100 Football Players in the World 2016: 80-71
Marcelo remains one of the most unheralded members of Real Madrid’s elite squad, but is nonetheless a key component in it. The Brazilian is one of the longest-serving members at the club – he arrived when he was just 18 – and his contributions have steadily increased over the years. Few young players can deal with the pressure that wearing the famous white shirt brings, but Marcelo has navigated every hurdle along the way.
Now, after 10 years with the club, he’s a resolute presence at full-back and has seen off the challenge from Fabio Coentrao to be los Blancos' undisputed left-back. Over time he has shored up in his defensive work, but it’s in attack where he has become a formidable, vital presence. Some of Madrid’s best moves stem from the 29-year-old, and his vibrancy in Real Madrid’s most recent Champions League triumph underpinned his importance to the team. The same can be said for when he’s with Brazil, for whom he is a key and experienced face helping bring in a new generation. – DC
75. Dele Alli
It’s a little under two years since Tottenham made a low-key £5m move for a promising midfielder plying his trade in England’s third tier. Dele Alli’s January 2015 move to Spurs didn’t make major headlines, but since arriving at White Hart Lane the following summer – having been loaned back to MK Dons just long enough to help them earn promotion to the Championship – he’s had people talking pretty much constantly.
There have been nutmegs (loads of them), and wonder goals – most notably his Goal of the Season contender at Crystal Palace – and the little moments of aggression that have enraged opposition fans and players, too.
“I like to just go out there and be myself,” Alli told FFT earlier this year. “Sometimes I get carried away with things, but I’m young and I’ve still got a lot to learn. Hugo Lloris has been a great influence on me at Tottenham and he’s spoken to me about it, too. He told me not to let that aggressive side fall out of my game, so I’m just going to keep being myself.”
Still, if he can focus more on the skill and less on the sh*thousing, he could become one of the Premier League and world’s best. – JM
74. Roberto Firmino
Firmino’s old Hoffenheim team-mates can barely believe that the scrawny young Brazilian who pitched up in Sinsheim almost five years ago is the same brilliant forward who’s now thriving at Liverpool in his second Premier League season.
It’s not that the now-25-year-old wasn’t good – it just took him a while (two-and-a-half seasons) to properly get going after arriving from Figueirense in January 2011. But that featherweight teenager is no more, replaced by a versatile and brilliant Brazil international who is part of Jurgen Klopp’s fearsome front three at Anfield.
Firmino has shone as a false nine in tandem with Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mané, having kicked on in the second half of last term with nine goals in his last 14 games (starting with a brace against Arsenal). This season has been even better: Firmino plundered five goals in his first 10 games and had a direct hand in six more. On song the trio are practically unstoppable – much like Firmino’s progression right now. – JB
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